Autonomous payments is the future state of payments — and banks, merchants, and payment vendors need to prepare now. Venture funding in this arena already exceeds $28 billion. Coupled with intensifying economic and political forces, consumers globally will see this new but nonlinear evolution of payments emerge, where payments will melt into the wider commerce experience and create new incremental value for consumers. The key tenets of autonomous payments include:

  • Authentication becomes the payment. Cards and their associated PIN and signature authentication methods are becoming quaint relics of the past.
  • Invisible transactions. The mass market will start to be reconditioned to transact invisibly — and that will happen sooner than we think.
  • Rewards become orchestrated. Current walled-garden programs will succumb to loyalty and rewards programs that are facilitated by distributed ledgers, thereby allowing for rewards that best fit the transaction and provide the most value to the customer.

Autonomous payments will cause a shift in consumer preferences and habits, which will totally disrupt the status quo for today’s payment leaders. Autonomous payments will rebalance economic and market power, assert and protect identity in new ways, and overcome the walled gardens of rewards systems that frustrate customers and suppress real value.

Digital payments helped transform commerce. But the commerce experiences of tomorrow will revolutionize payments, making payments the invisible, invaluable part of an elegant, customer-first commerce experience. The question is: How will you reimagine, remodel, and lay claim to an autonomous payments market that exists in only parts today?

Forrester has a powerful base of research on today’s consumer payment technologies and business realities. We also have a trove of deep insights into decades of customer expectations and behaviors. We brought these dynamics together to form a possible future payment state worth further investigation.